As a rule, procedural votes in the House of Representatives are about asimportant to the citizenry as yesterday's tide table. But one scheduledto come up this week could affect the lives of you and millions of otherAmericans.
The question is whether the Republican leadership of the House willallow a floor vote on an amendment that would increase spending onanti-terrorism programs by $6.5 billion. A key part of the proposalwould boost funding for joint U.S.-Russian efforts to keep Russiannuclear materials from falling into terrorist hands.
The amendment was rejected by a narrow 34-31 margin in theAppropriations Committee, with two Republicans joining all the Democratson the losing side. Chairman Bill Young of Florida, who led his fellowRepublicans in scuttling it, made it clear that he did not disagree withits substance but felt constrained by President Bush's threat to vetoany appropriation larger than the administration had requested.
Still to be decided is whether the Rules Committee, which takes itsguidance from the Republican leadership, will allow a floor vote on theamendment or, alternatively, if the House will insist on it.
Here's why it matters to you. In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks,federal agencies asked the White House for $127 billion more to recoverfrom that assault and beef up security. The White House Office ofManagement and Budget cut that back by more than two-thirds.
Most of the extra $6.5 billion proposed by Wisconsin Rep. David Obey andthe other Democrats would be spent on security measures here at home.Among other things, their amendment would enable the FBI to modernizeits computer system for tracking suspects by next spring, instead ofwaiting until 2004. It would give the U.S. Postal Service funds fordetection equipment to prevent anthrax-laden envelopes from goingthrough the mail. It would increase coverage at 64 Canadian-U.S. borderpoints that now are not staffed 24 hours a day, and boost port security,where currently only 2 percent of entering cargo containers aresearched.
But "the major deficiency" that Obey says his amendment would rectify isthe scant $18 million add-on the Bush-imposed ceiling allows forsecuring Russian nuclear materials from terrorists, who have maderepeated efforts to acquire ingredients for atomic weapons. Theamendment would add $316 million to the Nunn-Lugar program, which began10 years ago under the bipartisan sponsorship of then-Sen. Sam Nunn ofGeorgia and Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana.
Those who watched NBC's "Meet the Press" Nov. 18 heard national securityadviser Condoleezza Rice say that President Bush has been "verysupportive of the Nunn-Lugar program." She said, "The funding was notcut. . . . All the way back in the campaign, the president talked aboutperhaps even increasing funding for programs of this kind." Rice saidBush has asked for as "much money as is actually needed."
Perhaps the usually well-informed security adviser was misinformed, butwhat she said was wrong.
The administration's budget request cut the Department of Energy part ofthe Nunn-Lugar program from $872 million to $774 million and theDepartment of Defense portion by another $40 million. The "materialsprotection and accounting" program that safeguards and monitors Russiannuclear materials was cut $35 million; the program to subsidize researchfacilities for jobless Russian nuclear scientists and keep them fromworking for terrorists, another $10 million.
Nor is it true, as Rice claimed, that no more money could usefully bespent. Veteran professional staff people in Congress and theadministration tell me the Russians have never been more receptive toAmerican help in locking up or disposing of these materials. On Sept. 26the Russians agreed to give U.S. inspectors access to nuclear sitesnever before opened. The window is open, but money is short.
The program for disposing of plutonium -- a basic ingredient of nuclearweapons -- is essentially bankrupt. Some in the Bush administrationargue that current disposal methods -- burning it in nuclear powerreactors or storing it in glassified form -- are too expensive. I cannotjudge. But last week, 20 senators wrote Bush "strongly urging" him togive "full and adequate funding" to the plutonium disposal program.Among the signers were 10 Republicans, including the party's seniordefense and budget spokesmen, Sens. John Warner and Pete Domenici.
This is a stupid place to try to save money. The House deserves a chanceto reverse the error. return to menu
2. The Threat of Nuclear Terrorism: Lawmaker's Crusade to Expand U.S. Protections Stumbles
November 23, 2001
(for personal use only)
The threat of a nuclear explosion. Not something that's likely to slipthrough the cracks. Not something that's hard to get people to focus on,post-Sept. 11. Not something that a determined congressman would haveany trouble putting on the national agenda. Not true.
U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, Democrat of Texas, has been on Capitol Hill for11 years. He's a moderate, respected in both parties and a member of thepowerful House Appropriations Committee. His district encompasses Wacoand a little town called Crawford. But President Bush's congressmandescribes himself as "incredibly frustrated."
"Congress can find $256 million to protect itself, but can't find oneadditional dime to protect Americans from the real threat of nuclearterrorism," Edwards says. "It borders on the criminal."
Edwards is talking about the decision of the Appropriations Committee toreject efforts to expand funding for safeguarding loose nukes in theformer Soviet Union. On a straight party-line vote, the committee, atthe behest of the White House, decided it was business as usual oncontrolling the possible sale of nuclear materials to terrorists.
GAUGING THE THREAT
No one says the Department of Energy program isn't working or is wastingmoney. No one says that all of the nuclear storage facilities in theformer Soviet Union have been secured; only a third have been. No onedenies the seriousness of the threat.
In fact, Bush himself said on Nov. 6: "We will not wait for moreinnocent deaths. We will not wait for the authors of mass death to gainthe weapons of mass destruction. We act now, because we must lift thisdark threat from our age and save generations to come."
But we are not acting fast enough. Or so people like former Sen. HowardBaker and former White House Counsel Lloyd Cutler believe. They authoreda report earlier this year that said the possibility of stolen ordiverted nuclear material from Russia was "the most urgent nationalsecurity threat facing the United States today."
NUCLEAR MATERIALS AT RISK
The facts are terrifying. More than 600 tons of enriched uranium are in"urgent need" of immediate safeguarding. That's enough to build 41,000nuclear bombs. Thousands of Russian nuclear scientists remainunemployed. Scores of Russian nuclear facilities remain unsecured,despite considerable progress on that front since the mid-1990s. Since1992, there have been 14 documented cases where highly enriched uraniumwas stolen from the former Soviet Union and later seized by Russianofficials. Eight of those seizures took place outside of Russia. None ofthe cases involved enough material to make a bomb, but that's hardlyreassuring. We don't know, of course, about those cases where seizureswere never made.
Baker and Cutler recommend spending $3 billion a year on State, Defenseand Energy department programs to address this situation. The reactionfrom the White House? In its first budget, the Office of Management andBudget proposed cutting $100 million from the $850 million devoted tosecuring former Soviet nuclear materials. After a broad internal reviewand the events of Sept. 11, the administration agreed to keep fundingflat instead of slashing it.
But why should it be flat? Why shouldn't it be expanded at least to whatBaker and Cutler recommended in January?
BUSH ADMINISTRATION'S VIEW
On NBC's "Meet the Press" last week, Tim Russert asked Condoleezza Rice,the president's national security adviser, why this program was facingthe budget ax. Rice said the program was working well and "the money isa function of how much money is needed in any given year to actuallycarry out the programs that are planned."
Look at that answer closely. Rice is a talented government official withmuch on her plate. But when it comes to nuclear threats, she may stillbe living in a pre-Sept. 11 world. The "programs that are planned" wereplanned in the 1990s, before we realized that terrorists would actuallyuse nuclear weapons if they got them.
Existing programs need to be expanded and accelerated--and fundingaccordingly--to meet the threat. And pronto.
The Bush administration, which, like the Clinton administration has beenworking hard on non-proliferation issues, raises some reasonableobjections. The Russians don't admit there's a problem with loose nukes,so we can't make too much noise in assessing the threat. Quietcooperation has worked much better, and this fall the Russian governmentagreed to provide even more access to its facilities than in the past.Then there's the question of how fast any new money could be used. "Youcan always spend more money, but there's the issue of what can beabsorbed efficiently," says one senior administration official.
'WAIT UNTIL NEXT YEAR'
Even so, Chet Edwards was stunned when he heard Rep. Tom DeLay sayduring an Appropriations Committee meeting last week that the UnitedStates should "wait until next year" to increase funding of these andother programs. "Everyone agrees in theory that we ought to do a lotmore," says Edwards. "But then there's no action."
The congressman intends to keep pressing the issue, maybe even paying acall on his famous constituent, whom he's known for 20 years, at hisCrawford ranch. "Say that one morning I woke up and saw that 2 millionhad been killed in Chicago or Los Angeles or somewhere," says Edwards."I would literally never be able to sleep again if I thought I hadn'tdone all I could to prevent it." return to menu
B. Cooperative Threat Reduction
1. Pu-Reactors to Remain Intact
November, 20 2001
(for personal use only)
In June 1994, the United States and Russia signed an agreement underwhich Moscow would shut down the three plutonium-producing reactors bythe year 2000. Two of those reactors are located in Tomsk-7, nowSeversk, and one in Krasnoyarsk-26, now Zheleznogorsk. Russia, however,would not allow the accord to enter into force until alternative sourcesof energy had been found. Moscow argued that the "dual use" reactorsprovide most of the heat and electricity for the surrounding cities.
After completing an alternative feasibility study in 1995, the UnitedStates and Russia determined that conversion of the reactor cores wasthe best way to meet civilian energy needs while also halting theproduction of weapons grade plutonium.
In September 1997, a formal agreement was signed by vice president AlGore and prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin which required Russia tomodify the three reactors by December 31st 2000.
The agreement also prohibited the United States and Russia fromrestarting any plutonium producing reactors that have already been shutdown. The USA shut down all 14 of its plutonium producing reactors by1989, while Russia has ceased operating 10 of its 13 reactors. Theagreement also stipulated that any plutonium produced from the day itwas signed could not be used in nuclear weapons.
The Russian Ministry for Nuclear Energy (Minatom) and the US Departmentof Defence (DOD) were the state agencies on both sides to implement theagreement. In fiscal year 1997, Congress appropriated $10 million inCo-operative Threat Reduction (the program under DOD) assistance for theproject. The total cost of the project, which was to be divided betweenthe United States and Russia, was expected to be about $150 million.
No shutdown by deadline
But as the shutdown deadline neared it became clear that the project wasnot to be implemented. In February 2000, Minatom informed its Americancounterpart that the conversion project was inexpedient. Instead,Americans were proposed to build fossil fuel substitutes for thereactors - a project with a price tag of up to $300m. The most part ofthe funds, according to the Russian plan, was to be provided by the US.Americans took a timeout.
But in March the same year, Minatom officials came with a proposal tomodify the cores of the three reactors in a way they can burn RBMK typefuel. The plutonium reactors have uranium-graphite design and inprinciple could me redesigned for RBMK fuel.
Later the same year, the director of the Mining and Chemical Combine inZheleznogorsk, which operates one plutonium reactor, Vasily Zhidkov,said the reactor could continue to produce plutonium but would be setunder the control of the US.
Today the lifetime of the reactors in Seversk was extended untilDecember 31st 2005, while the reactor in Zheleznogorsk will operateuntil December 31st 2006.
According to the latest report published in Philadelphia Inquirer, thePentagon and House Republicans are trying to scrap the whole agreement.The Pentagon and its congressional allies say that while they support ashutdown of the three reactors, US defence dollars are too precious tobe used on the project.
Such reaction is understandable since the project has not move anyfurther since it was launched.
The Russian Nuclear Regulatory, GAN, was sceptical to the coreconversion from the very start. The Combine in Zheleznogorsk hadtroubles to renew its operation licence for the reactor, which exceededits operational limits by two folds. The same is true for the reactorsin Seversk.
The result of the almost seven-year process will be, thus, continuedproduction of 1.5 tonne of plutonium annually on unsafe reactors atleast five years more into the future. return to menu
2. Progress On Nuclear Arms Should Be Just A Beginning
Karl F. Inderfurth
November 20, 2001
(for personal use only)
WASHINGTON - The three-day summit between President Bush and RussianPresident Vladimir V. Putin witnessed another step forward in thefundamental transformation of a relationship - from enemies during theCold War to allies in today's war on terrorism.
In the first era, our relations were defined by nuclear confrontation.Now that is being replaced by nuclear cooperation.
The most dramatic announcement of the summit came when the twopresidents stated their intention to make major reductions in nuclearweapons - by as much as two-thirds of the American and Russianlong-range arsenals. The world would be a safer place for it.
These weapons are, in Mr. Bush's words, "relics of the Cold War." Theelimination of nearly 10,000 nuclear weapons over 10 years would mark amilestone in strategic relations between the two countries. At theearliest opportunity, the two presidents should also agree to take asmany nuclear missiles as possible off high-alert status (those that areready to fire within minutes). This is another "Cold War relic," and onethat risks a catastrophic accidental launch.
Perhaps of even greater significance, in light of Sept. 11, is thestatement by the two men that their highest priority is to keepterrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction. They agreed thatit is urgent to improve the physical protection and accounting ofnuclear materials and prevent illicit nuclear trafficking.
Their statement came as reports circulated that Osama bin Laden wasclaiming to have nuclear weapons, that his al-Qaida network had detailedplans for nuclear devices and other terrorist bombs in one of its Kabulheadquarters and that a senior Russian official had reported a majorincident involving the theft of nuclear materials in the past two years.
The United States has been helping to prevent the diversion of Russiannuclear weapons, materials and expertise to hostile hands for the pastdecade, but it now must be a top priority and pursued vigorously.
A report issued this year by former Senate Majority Leader Howard Bakerand White House Counsel Lloyd Cutler called for funding for cooperativethreat-reduction programs with Russia to be increased up to a total of$30 billion over the next eight to 10 years.
"The national security benefits to U.S. citizens from securing and/orneutralizing the equivalent of more than 80,000 nuclear weapons andpotential nuclear weapons would constitute the highest return oninvestment in any current U.S. national security and defense program,"the report said.
Unfortunately, the Bush administration reduced funding for theseprograms this year from their previous levels, although Congress hasattempted to restore some of these funds. The prominence attached toU.S.-Russian nonproliferation by Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin should signalurgency and bode well for future funding.
Some important nuclear differences still remain between the UnitedStates and Russia. President Bush wants to replace signed arms controlagreements with an expression of trust and a handshake. Mr. Putin wantsto see more formal arrangements providing for verification andmonitoring. In this, Mr. Bush would do well to recall a famousinjunction of one of his predecessors, Ronald Reagan: "Trust, butverify."
The two sides also must come to an understanding about testing anddevelopment of a missile defense system - a top priority of the Bushadministration - and the continuation of the Anti-Ballistic MissileTreaty, which Mr. Putin says is the "cornerstone of strategicstability." Here a deal is possible, if both sides can demonstrate thesame degree of nuclear cooperation on the defensive side of the nuclearledger as they are showing on the offensive side.
On the first day of his summit with Mr. Putin, Mr. Bush declared it "anew day in the long history of Russian-American relations, a day ofprogress and a day of hope."
There is no question that some progress was made in Washington and atthe president's Texas ranch. There is also hope that more is to comewhen Mr. Bush travels to St. Petersburg to meet with Mr. Putin in thespring. return to menu
C. Russian Nuclear Cities
1. Former Atomic Minister Plays Down Possibility of Passing Nuclear Secrets Abroad
BBC Monitoring Service
November 23, 2001
(for personal use only)
Text of report in English by Russian news agency ITAR-TASS
Moscow, 23 November: Viktor Mikhaylov, former atomic energy minister whoheads Russian closed nuclear research centre in Sarov (formerArzamas-16) has fully ruled out the possibility of nuclear secrets beingpassed abroad by Russian physicists. "It is not only Arzamas-16, but allthe other 10 closed nuclear centres which are at issue," Mikhaylov toldITAR-TASS on Friday [23 November].
"Professional secrets of nuclear research workers are thoroughlyprotected, and the bearers of these secrets are not likely to confidethem to anyone," Mikhaylov said. None of Russian nuclear experts, or theso-called bearers of top secret information about "the bomb", has goneabroad in order to stay there permanently, Mikhaylov said. He admittedthat approximately 15-20 per cent of nuclear experts, "who are not elitein nuclear science", changed their jobs and moved to commercialstructures.
In the past two-three years, the situation around the state financing ofclosed nuclear centres has stabilized, Mikhaylov said. "Although we arenot given much, the money comes regularly and we can plan this or thatresearch," Mikhaylov said.
The average salary paid to workers of the Sarov nuclear centre, wherethe first Soviet nuclear bomb was created at the end of the 1940s, isR4,500 (150 dollars) a month with a pay rise expected in the near futureup to R6,000 roubles (200 dollars), Mikhaylov said.
Nuclear experts, including experts from closed nuclear centres,cooperate with foreign colleagues from the United States, France, China,but this cooperation deals with the peaceful use of atomic energy andsecurity in the nuclear industry only, Mikhaylov said.
Source: ITAR-TASS news agency, Moscow, in English 1306 gmt 23 Nov 01 return to menu
Russia's nuclear cities were once elite centres of military researchhidden in dark corners of the Soviet Union, fenced off from the outsideworld and painted out of ordinary road maps.
Now, their underpaid specialists fuel Western nightmares of nuclearleaks, thefts and terrorism.
Tales of suitcases filled with weapons-grade uranium are more oftenfiction than fact, experts say. But the U.S. military campaign inAfghanistan has boosted demand for weapons of mass destruction -- andthe marketability of the brain power to operate them.
"One of our biggest problems is the brain-drain, and we know manyscientists have left the closed cities," defence analyst AlexanderPikayev told Reuters.
"Fortunately we know they left for the West and Israel, but if the(global) situation continues to develop in this way, we cannot rule outthat they will move to other states."
Osama bin Laden, prime suspect in September's hijacked airliner attackson U.S. landmarks, says he possesses nuclear and chemical weapons, aclaim Russian leader Vladimir Putin has cast doubt on.
Moreover, analysts argue, drastic cuts to programmes funding the cities'conversion to civilian life could upset an already delicate balance.
"How could a group or a country fabricate a nuclear or radiologicaldevice out of materials they have acquired?" asked Jon Wolfstahl, aWashington-based associate of the Carnegie Endowment for InternationalPeace.
"I don't think they can produce a very small compact nuclear weaponwithout a lot of assistance, which raises the important question: are wedoing enough to protect or prevent Russian nuclear experts fromproviding that assistance?"
The Nuclear Cities Initiative, announced in March 1998, was a concretestep towards addressing Russia's post-Cold War nuclear challenges, andintended to promote conversion in the dozen or so nuclear cities throughprivate investment and development.
In its three pilot cities, the initiative opened business developmentand computer centres, and funded training on career changes and cityleadership.
But the cash attributed to the initiative by the U.S. government hasdwindled, sliding to an all-time low of around $6 million in 2002 from apeak of $30 million.
"The risk of a brain-drain is quite real and unfortunately it can grow,given that some U.S. programmes like the Nuclear Cities Initiative havebeen cut back," Pikayev said.
OUT OF BOUNDS
During Soviet rule, security concerns kept the closed cities off themap, hiding them under the names of postboxes in nearby towns --Cheliabinsk-70, Tomsk-7 -- their interior unknown even to neighbouringvillages. In return, their inhabitants lived lives of relative luxury.
The sealed enclaves tucked away in Russia's most remote regions werehome not only to the heart of Russia's nuclear weapons industry, butalso chemical and biological research.
The closed cities are still out of bounds for foreigners, but many areslowly beginning fresh, civilian lives with new names, new purposes andthe right to a spot on the map.
And some say life in these cities -- showered with privileges at theheight of the Soviet arms drive, but forgotten in the breakup of theSoviet Union -- is now little different from that in the rest of Russia.
"The situation in our closed cities, particularly in MinAtom (AtomicEnergy Ministry) cities, is getting better," Dmitry Kovchegin, ananalyst with the Moscow-based Center for Policy Studies in Russia said.
"I was in (the Siberian city of) Tomsk and I spoke to people from thechemical combine just one day after September 11 and they said there isno human leakage from their city," he said.
Instead of leaving for better-paid jobs abroad, students were competingto get positions at the plant, he said.
But others say there is still little to celebrate.
Valentin Tikhonov, a sociologist affiliated to the Russian Academy ofSciences, published a survey of five nuclear cities showing that 62percent of employees earn less than $50 a month.
Unofficial figures place the wages of top nuclear workers at between$100-$300.
The lifeline, experts say, is private initiative and foreign investment.Wolfstahl quotes Intel as an example. The world's largest computer chipmaker has a software and microchip design centre in Sarov (formerlyArzamas-16).
"You no longer need to have large factories or mass migration ofindividuals to take advantage of their talent," he said.
But there is little to keep foreign investors interested: obtaining asimple authorisation to visit any of the closed cities (military orotherwise) can take up to two months.
And security following the September 11 attacks has only increased theobstacles.
"The Russian government could do more -- maybe one thing is to give (thecities) a more open status," Kovchegin said, adding regional leaderskeen to cash in taxes from the cities, which still enjoy tax perks, arestepping up pressure on Moscow.
Will the closer friendship between Russia and the West lead to abrighter outlook for these cities?
"I would like to believe the good relationship between Russia and theWest would help us decide what to do with these cities," Pikayev said."But at the same time it would help if the Americans raised theirassistance." return to menu
3. U.S.-Russia: U.S. Seeks to Hire Russian Scientists
Global Security Newswire
November 19, 2001
(for personal use only)
In an effort to stem the spread of dangerous weapons technologies andknow-how from Russia to other countries, the United States is moving toincrease the number of former Soviet scientists it hires.
Under a bill intended to help Russia reduce its stockpiles of nuclear,biological and chemical weaponsand to keep Russian scientists fromaiding such programs in Iran and elsewhere the U.S. Senate is seekingto increase the number of visas allotted for Russian scientists to cometo the United States from 750 per year to 950.
By a 19-0 vote the Security Assistance Act of 2001 passed the SenateForeign Relations Committee last week, a measure that also calls for theeasing of Russian foreign debt. Although changes are being made to thebill before it moves to the Senate floor, it is expected to pass withoutoppositionand receive support from the White House, committee officialssaid.
But officials familiar with the plight of Russian scientists, some ofwhom are unemployed and living off meager pensions that sometimes areseveral months late, said the Senate bill will not make much differencewithout the backing of Moscow.
"These people do not necessarily want to come here," said a top officialwith the Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration,which runs a program to employ Russian scientists in their home cities.
"The Russians certainly don't want their best and brightest lured out ofthe country," the official continued. "If you pluck all the people out,you're not helping those citiesyou're decimating those cities."
"The key is to get the money to the right people," said Bruce Parrott,director of Russian and Eurasian studies at Johns Hopkins University'sSchool of Advanced international Studies. "Whatever that can be done inthis realm is good, but the key is to makes sure we get the rightpeople."
The bill, which does not specify the amount of funds to relocate Russianscientists, would be in addition to similar programs run by the StateDepartment and the Department of Energy. The State Department's programoffers grants for scientists to work for its International Science andTechnology Centers in the United States while the Energy Department'sNational Nuclear Security Administration funds scientists to work onviable projects in Russia.
The latter program pays between $200,000 and $1.5 million for variousprojects, the Department of Energy official said. Currently thedepartment has a budget of $16.6 million for this year.
"Based on projects that just recently concluded, we estimate that in we may help create nearly 2,000 job opportunities [in Russia]."As more projects now are in the manufacturing and training arena,rather than R&D, more jobs are created."
The Senate bill that aims to bring Russian scientists to the states willonly work if the Russian government cooperates, said Parrott. He notesthat the Russian Defense Ministry has run biological weapons programsthat U.S. officials do not know much about, and it is important to hirescientists released from programs such as these so that they do notmigrate to other countries.
"I don't know if Presidents Bush and Putin addressed this last week, butyou'll only get cooperation [in hiring Russian scientists] if there isarm-twisting by both presidential administrations," Parrott said. return to menu
D. Nuclear Terrorism
1. Terror's Dirty Secret: Radioactive Material, Loosely Guarded, Makes A Cheap Weapon
David E. Kaplan and Douglas Pasternak
US News & World Report
November 23, 2001
(for personal use only)
The cesium was missing. From a hospital in Greensboro, N.C., someone hadpilfered 19 vials of radioactive cesium-137. It was March 1998, and injust weeks the city would host the regional NCAA basketball finals.Might a terrorist use the stolen material to disrupt the games? As FBIagents moved in, the U.S. Department of Energy quietly dispatched itsantinuke teams, complete with radiation-detecting vans and helicopter.For days they scoured the city, but the vials were never found.
Officials had good reason to worry--then and now. Back in 1987, inGoiania, Brazil, a theft of cesium-137 from an abandoned clinic spreadthe radioactive metal across an entire neighborhood, killing four,contaminating 249 others, and forcing the destruction of 85 homes. Theamount of cesium was minute--only 20 grams--but potent. More than112,000 Goiania residents had to be tested; moon-suited workers hauledaway 125,000 drums of contaminated refuse. And that disaster wasunintended--scrap-yard workers had come upon the discarded stuff andpassed some of it on to friends and family.
It may have been an accident, but the Goiania disaster suggests what canhappen if such substances fall into the wrong hands. Osama bin Laden haslong harbored nuclear ambitions, intelligence sources say. His al Qaedaoperatives have tried to buy weapons-grade uranium, and they have soughtexpertise from Russian and Pakistani nuclear scientists. Notebooks foundin al Qaeda houses in Kabul, Afghanistan, contain data on building anatomic bomb. While the terror chieftain boasted last month that hepossesses a nuclear weapon, intelligence analysts doubt that al Qaedahas actually fashioned a fission device. (That success managed to eludethe oil-rich Iraqis, who tried to build one for a good decade.) And evenif bin Laden obtained a Soviet nuke, the weapons require complex armingcodes that are highly secret and are not kept with the bomb. Figuringthem out, says a knowledgeable U.S. official, "would be tough for ourown people to do."
Explosive mix. Far easier, experts say, would be for bin Laden's wilyoperatives to fashion a crude radiological weapon. "He is going to buildwhat we call a radiological dispersal device or 'dirty bomb' and mix itwith explosives," predicts Edward Badolato, former director of securityat the Department of Energy. Such a weapon would not produce a nuclearreaction; rather, radioactive particles, like those stolen in Goiania orGreensboro, would be scattered by something like TNT. With these threatsin mind, the Department of Energy's elite antinuclear strike forcetheNuclear Emergency Support Team, or NEST--has "forward deployed" itsmembers to key cities, U.S. News has learned. In addition, DOEscientists are modeling the impact of a range of terrorist nuclearattacks on big U.S. cities: everything from a 10-ton nuclear blast to adirty bomb.
Dirty devices are not unheard of overseas. In 1998, officials inChechnya defused a booby-trapped explosive attached to a container ofradioactive material, according to Russian press reports. Three yearsearlier, Chechen separatists buried a 30-pound box of radioactive cesiumnear the entrance to a busy Moscow park and later threatened to blow up167 pounds of the stuff. Nor would a dirty bomb be new to Islamicmilitants. Some terrorism experts, including former FBI deputy directorOliver "Buck" Revell, believe that al Qaeda associate Ramzi Yousefsearched for radioactive waste to add to the explosive mix for the 1993World Trade Center bomb.
Sources for radioactive material are plentiful. Two weeks ago inSiberia, for example, Russian police arrested two men attempting to sellradioactive cobalt stolen from an industrial plant. In the United Statesthere are more than 2 million devices that use radioactive materials.Large amounts of radioisotopes are used in medicine to fight cancer andfor diagnosing various diseases. They are used by industry for moisturesensing, to examine pipe welds, and to irradiate food (and nowanthrax-tainted mail). They are in smoke alarms, pacemakers, even exitsigns. No terrorist will cause much damage with smoke alarms and exitsigns. But more dangerous radioactive materials are abundant and, saycritics, government regulators have failed to ensure they are notmisused. Since 1986, the NRC has recorded over 1,700 instances in whichradioactive material has been lost or stolen. "Security of radioactivematerials has traditionally been relatively light," says Abel Gonzalez,a top official at the United Nations' International Atomic EnergyAgency. "There are few security precautions on radiotherapy equipment,and a large source could be removed quite easily."
In the United States today, there are thousands of lost, stolen, ordiscarded radioactive sources--dubbed "orphans" by regulators. Nocomprehensive registry exists of radioactive devices, but the NRCestimates that in America one new radioactive source is orphaned everyday. About 50 of them are found by the public each year, alongroadsides, in dumps, and at recycling centers, and many more may be onthe way. Fully a quarter of America's 2 million radioactive devices areno longer needed or wanted by their owners, says former NRC healthphysicist Joel Lubenau. The situation is even worse overseas; formerSoviet republics like Georgia and the region of Chechnya are litteredwith radioactive garbage, say officials. "We need to get these orphanedsources off the street," says Lubenau.
The NRC is playing catch-up. Having found in the mid-1980s that 15percent of users could not account for their radioactive devices, theNRC this year ordered that its licensees keep better records. TheEnvironmental Protection Agency has also begun a pilot project tocollect orphaned materials, but critics call it too little too late."The genie really is out of the bottle," says Pennsylvania antinuclearactivist Scott Portzline, who for years has urged federal officials totighten over sight on the orphans.
Good news. While it may be easy to obtain radioactive materials and tofashion a device with them, therein lies some good news. Although recentpress reports suggest the impact of a dirty bomb would be disastrous,with thousands killed and downtowns rendered uninhabitable, scientistssay such scenarios are wildly exaggerated. "It is most likely that onlya small area of a few city blocks would be involved," concludes a justreleased report by the National Council on Radiation Protection andMeasurements. Casualties would be low, limited largely to those hurt bythe blast itself and those nearby who ingest radioactive particles. Mostdirty bombs would lack the kind of long-lived elements like plutoniumthat a nuclear blast releases. And the isotopes--in most cases heavymetals--would fall to the ground, where they could be cleaned up withcommon detergents. The cleanup would be monitored with Geiger counters."It would not harm a lot of people from a human health perspective,"says David Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer at the Union of ConcernedScientists. "But it would cause a lot of terror."
Terror, indeed, appears to be a dirty bomb's greatest attraction. Theimage of moon-suited crews with Geiger counters in a big city downtownis bound to cause panic. The economic costs would also be considerable.In the end, though, the sheer lethality of radioactive devices may bewhat stops terrorists from using them. To create an effective dirtybomb, one must extract the radioactive material from its shielding,exposing the terrorists to far worse radiation than their victims wouldreceive. "That's why we wear dosimeters and use glove boxes and robots,"says a NEST veteran. "The guy's going to irradiate himself, and we'llfind him dead four days later." return to menu
2. Dust Off Those Reports on Nuclear Threats
Christian Science Monitor
November 23, 2001
(for personal use only)
In my somewhat chaotic filing system, I have a collection of documentslabeled WMD for "weapons of mass destruction." They are mostly reportsby official and scholarly panels on the looming threats of chemical,biological, and nuclear warfare. It is remarkable how little attentionthese reports have received until lately.
To pick a few off the pile, there is the 1998 report of theHarvard-Stanford Preventive Defense Project against CatastrophicTerrorism led by former Defense Secretary William Perry and formerAssistant Secretary Ashton Carter. It calls for mobilization inanticipation of an emergency resulting from an act of terrorism.
There is a booklet compiled by the McCormick Tribune Foundation lastyear titled "Catastrophic Terrorism: Uncertain Response." Then, a 1998report of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, warning thatsome college students have designed workable models of atomic bombs.
On the more official side, the January report of an Energy Departmenttask force chaired by former Sen. Howard Baker and former White Housecounsel Lloyd Cutler, stressing the need to control "loose nukes,"especially in Russia. A 1998 report of the US Commission on NationalSecurity, headed by former Sens. Gary Hart and Warren Rudman, calls formore attention to terrorist dangers.
All these and more are being dusted off now that Osama bin Laden hasclaimed to have nuclear weapons, and especially now that he may befeeling increasingly besieged. There is new attention to the testimonyof an Al Qaeda member last winter in federal court in New York aboutmeetings aimed at acquiring nuclear fuel on the black market, probablyfrom a former Soviet state. Now, in The Economist magazine, Harvard'sGraham Allison, former assistant secretary of Defense, reports onterrorist groups trying to break into Russian nuclear storage sites andthe possibility that up to 40 KGB suitcase nuclear bombs are notaccounted for.
Last year, says Mr. Allison, the CIA intercepted a message in which amember of the Al Qaeda group boasted of plans for an American Hiroshima.Now, perhaps, the Bush administration will consider restoring some ofthe funds cut from the Nunn-Lugar Program, which in 10 years has paidfor defusing 5,000 nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union.
Maybe we needed Osama bin Laden to prod the United States government totake the nuclear threat seriously. return to menu
3. Nuclear Security Lapses Aid Terrorists, Experts Say
November 20, 2001
(for personal use only)
While discounting the latest reports of Osama bin Laden's nuclearcapability, weapons experts warn that the United States is doing far toolittle to safeguard bombmaking materials around the world, heighteningthe risk of a nuclear terrorist attack against America.
Security gaps, poor inventory records and excess plutonium productionare not being fully addressed, they say, particularly in Russia andother republics that were once part of the Soviet Union.
For years government reports have warned of such deficiencies. Butconcerns have intensified since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks,well-planned suicide missions that have many experts rethinking whetherterrorists have the money, technical expertise and willingness to die tocarry out a nuclear strike.
"The U.S. has been complacent," said Matthew Bunn, an expert on nucleartheft and a White House adviser in the mid-1990s. "We need to be movingas rapidly as humanly possible to make sure that all the nuclearmaterial worldwide is secure and accounted for."
In recent days, there has been considerable speculation over whether binLaden, the alleged mastermind in the terrorist attacks, has a nuclearbomb. He told a Pakistani reporter that he possesses nuclear weapons,according to an account of the interview in Pakistan's English-languagepaper Dawn. And a Times of London journalist reported finding papers inan abandoned house in Kabul, Afghanistan, said to contain instructionson how to build a nuclear device.
U.S. experts and the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency,the United Nations body that monitors nuclear programs, said they havelong believed it is highly unlikely bin Laden or other terrorists havenuclear arms.
What is more likely, they said, is that terrorists could make a "dirtybomb"--a conventional explosive packaged with radioactive material tocontaminate a portion of a city and cause wide panic.
Officials also believe that bin Laden wants to acquire nuclear bombs andthat there is an active black market for the materials needed to makethe weapons. In January, an Energy Department task force said the mosturgent unmet national security threat was the risk of nuclear weapons ormaterial in Russia falling into the wrong hands.
`An unacceptable risk'
While the U.S. has spent millions of dollars on the problem, resultingin significant improvements, the effort has not been enough, leaving "anunacceptable risk of failure and the potential for catastrophicconsequences," the task force said.
The General Accounting Office, Congress's investigative arm, has come tosimilar conclusions. In February, it reported that hundreds of tons ofnuclear material in Russia was inadequately protected.
"At one nuclear facility that we visited, an entrance gate to a buildingcontaining nuclear material was left open and unattended by guards," thereport stated.
Experts expressed doubt, however, that terrorists have nuclear bombs forseveral reasons. Despite some security concerns, ready-to-launchwarheads are well-secured by the nations that own them, they said. Thematerials needed to make nuclear weapons are easier to obtain, butbuilding a bomb from scratch is expensive and extremely difficult.
"Saddam Hussein couldn't succeed with almost unlimited resources in a10-year effort, so we don't see how in the caves of Afghanistan youwould be able to do that," said David Kyd, a spokesman for the atomicenergy agency.
If terrorists did possess a nuclear weapon, they would have to find away to deliver it and detonate it--again, no easy matter.
Making a nuclear bomb requires about 50 pounds of highly enricheduranium or 16 pounds of plutonium. To date, authorities have nevercaught smugglers with that amount of material, Kyd said. "What we havebeen seeing is typically just a few ounces," he said.
Since 1993, 175 cases of trafficking in highly enriched uranium andplutonium and 201 cases of trafficking in medical and industrialradioactive materials, such as cobalt, have been reported to the agency."That may be only the tip of an iceberg," Kyd said.
Rose Gottemoeller, the Energy Department's assistant secretary fornon-proliferation and national security in the Clinton administration,cautioned that the nuclear trade is not like the huge drug trade, whereonly a fraction of the contraband is intercepted.
"We are looking at a kind of boutique market with very few interestedcustomers and a relatively small amount of material moving illicitly,"she said.
Accurate inventories not kept
Most seizures have been in the former Soviet Union, where the breakup ofthe superpower in 1991 and the subsequent economic troubles have leftindependent republics with vulnerable nuclear material. One result,experts said, is that the countries do not have accurate inventories oftheir nuclear material.
Moreover, the countries have been slow to modernize their securitysystems.
Gottemoeller said that when she was in the Clinton administration shevisited several nuclear facilities in the former Soviet Union andwitnessed the lack of basic security, such as bars on the windows.
"We need to first concentrate on what I call quick fixes, getting to allthe sites in the complex and making sure we have bars on the windows[and] blast-proof doors," she said.
The Energy Department task force, headed by Republican Howard Baker, aformer senator and White House chief of staff, and Democrat LloydCutler, a former White House counsel, visited nuclear sites in Russialast year and found them to be in a "dire state." The task force reportcited delays in payments to guards, breakdowns in command structures andthe lack of money to protect stockpiles and laboratories.
The officials cited several close calls. In 1998, conspirators at anenergy facility in Chelyabinsk were caught trying to steal material"just short of that needed for one nuclear device." That same year, aworker at a nuclear laboratory in Sarov was arrested for trying to selldocuments on nuclear weapons designs to agents of Iraq and Afghanistanfor $3 million. In January 2000, authorities arrested four sailors at asubmarine base on the Kamchatka Peninsula for stealing radioactivematerial.
Experts, however, doubt reports that Russia is missing any of its"suitcase bombs," or small nuclear weapons.
In the mid-1990s, Gen. Alexander Lebed, former secretary of the RussianSecurity Council, said that dozens of the weapons were unaccounted for.He later retracted his statement, and Russia now says the bombs are notmissing, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which saidit has no evidence to the contrary.
Russia upgrades security
The agency also noted that a suitcase bomb is a misnomer. The weaponsare about the size of a foot locker and weigh between 240 and 300pounds.
With U.S. help and money, progress has been made in Russia. Security hasbeen upgraded at many nuclear sites, new jobs have been found fornuclear scientists, and uranium has been blended down to concentrationstoo low to be used in nuclear weapons.
Perhaps the greatest immediate concern is that terrorists might obtain asmall amount of radioactive material and create a dirty bomb. The weaponprobably wouldn't kill many people, but it might contaminate a sectionof a city and sow fear for many years.
"Even if you decontaminated the area," said Kyd, the atomic energyagency spokesman, "you would have one heck of a time persuading peoplethey could go back to live or work there." return to menu
E. US-Russian Relations
1. The Beginning of a U.S.-Russian Alliance?
Alexander R. Vershbow
November 23, 2001
(for personal use only)
A week has passed since the conclusion of the meetings betweenPresidents George W. Bush andVladimir Putin in Washington and Crawford, Texas. These meetings werethe culmination of an historic period in U.S.-Russian cooperation thatmay well be viewed as a watershed in our relations.
Although the Cold War ended officially a decade ago, U.S.-Russianrelations over the past 10 years were still colored by the suspicionsand mistrust of the past. Russia, of course, was going through adifficult period of transition and turmoil with many false starts andmissed opportunities on the path to democracy and a free-market economy.Internationally, Russia remained in a kind of no man's land -- seekingintegration with the West but not always capable of shedding thezero-sum thinking of the Soviet era. While there were many positivegains in Russia's relations with the United States and the other Westernnations, including major steps to reduce the risk of nuclear war, thedecade ended with a sense of disappointment and uncertainty.
Things began to change this year. Russia's reform process finally beganto gain traction, with a solid economic turnaround after the 1998 crashand an impressive package of reform legislation enacted by the StateDuma. U.S.-Russian relations got back on a positive track with the firstBush-Putin meetings in Ljubljana in June and Genoa in July. These led tointensive consultations on strategic arms and missile defense, alongwith high-level U.S. efforts to expand the economic and traderelationship. But it was the terrorist acts of Sept. 11 that gave therelationship an even stronger impetus: They served as the catalyst forthe transformation of the relationship announced by the U.S. and Russianpresidents at Washington and Crawford.
The strategic choice by Putin to give Russia's full support to theanti-terrorist coalition had a dramatic effect on the administrationleadership and the American public. That choice made clear that our twocountries, together with other Western democracies, were now operatingon the basis of shared interests and shared values and not on the basisof tactical necessity alone.
The common mission -- to destroy the terrorists and those who harborthem -- led to unprecedented forms of political and military cooperationand the sharing of the most sensitive intelligence information betweenWashington and Moscow. The epic nature of the new threat also helped putsome of the still-contentious issues on the U.S.-Russian agenda intotheir proper perspective and gave both sides a greater incentive to lookfor constructive solutions.
In making his strategic choice, Putin proved himself to be a man who hasgrasped that the Cold War is truly over, that the United States andRussia are no longer rivals but friendly powers pursuing many of thesame goals. The meetings in Washington and Crawford confirmed thatour two countries have embarked on a new relationship for a new century.They strengthened our joint commitment to cooperate on a wide range ofissues and highlighted the extraordinarily warm personal relationsbetween the two leaders. And on those issues where our countries stilldiffer, such as Iraq and Iran, the meetings showed our ability toaddress our differences frankly but without allowing them to overshadowour common interests.
At the top of the list of the summit's major achievements was theagreement by the two leaders to carry out dramatic reductions in U.S.and Russian strategic nuclear forces. Bush announced that the UnitedStates will reduce to a level between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads over thenext decade (down from over 7,000 today). Putin announced that Russiawill make comparable reductions. The next step is to codify thesereductions, to include measures for verification, without the multiyearnegotiations that used to be necessary in Cold War days.
As to ballistic missile defenses, we will keep working on this issue.The ABM Treaty prohibits the testing that the United States must conductin order to develop effective but limited missile defenses againstrogue-state threats. But whether or not we find a solution, bothpresidents made clear their determination to develop a new strategicframework for the long term -- one that is more in keeping with our newrelationship and takes account of the changes in the strategic situationsince the ABM Treaty was signed 29 years ago. A new framework shouldenable our two countries to meet future threats together.
The summit also highlighted our cooperation to prevent or counter theproliferation of weapons of mass destruction. This includes continuedefforts to improve the physical security and accounting of nuclearmaterials so that terrorists and those who support them can neveracquire such weapons. Of special importance was a joint statement onbioterrorism -- especially timely after the recent anthrax incidents inthe United States. Russian and American officials and experts will worktogether to prevent terrorists from acquiring biological weapons and onrelated health measures to protect our populations.
The two presidents devoted considerable time to Russia's relationshipwith NATO. They declared that Russia and NATO are increasingly acting asallies against terrorism and other new threats and that the NATO-Russiarelationship should reflect this alliance. Our common task is to devisenew mechanisms for cooperation, coordinated action and joint decisionsthat can integrate Russia more closely in NATO's work.
Beyond these security questions, Bush and Putin also addressed ways toexpand our dynamic economic relationship and promote Russia's fullintegration into the world economy. We will work to accelerate Russia'saccession to the World Trade Organization, based on the standardconditions that other countries have followed. The summit also announcedsteps to support the expansion of small- and medium-sized business inRussia, and a Banking Dialogue to help close one of the gaps in theRussian reform process.
Our presidents also discussed human rights, religious freedom and theindependent media. They welcomed the initiative of Russian and Americanmedia executives, journalists, and independent organizations to convenea Media Entrepreneurship Dialogue aimed at improving the conditionsnecessary for media to flourish as a business in Russia.
In short, the Washington-Crawford summit showed that the United Statesand Russia are taking giant steps to transform their relationship. Inthe future, we will act as genuine partners -- indeed, as allies.Moreover, unlike our alliance in World War II, we are united not just bya common enemy but by common values of democracy, liberty and the ruleof law.
U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander R. Vershbow was a member of the U.S.delegation at the Washington-Crawford summit. He contributed thiscomment to The Moscow Times. return to menu
2. Still Overkill
Ivo H. Daalder and James M. Lindsay
San Jose Mercury News
November 18, 2001
(for personal use only)
Suppose a terrorist buys radioactive material from the Russian mafia,smuggles it into the United States, packs it around explosives, and setsits off in a major city, leaving a smoking, radiating ruin. Such ascenario no longer seems farfetched in the wake of Sept. 11.
But while the possible diversion of weapons of mass destruction intoterrorist hands should have topped the agenda at last week's U.S.-Russiasummit, the issue was barely raised in a meeting that was long ondown-home hospitality and short on substance.
This was supposed to be a different kind of summit. Drawn together asnew allies in the war on terrorism, presidents George Bush and VladimirPutin were supposed to meet in Crawford, Texas, and close the book onthe Cold War. They would conclude a deal that would trade deep cuts inoffensive nuclear weapons for greatly relaxed restrictions onmissile-defense testing, and thereby usher in a new era of the nuclearage.
In fact, the Crawford summit failed to achieve even its most modestgoals. Bush and Putin continued to disagree over missile-defense testingand the future of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. And whileboth presidents said they would slash their still-massive strategicnuclear arsenals, there is much less to those commitments than meets theeye.
In the end, Putin returns to Moscow with mostly empty hands, makingfuture cooperation on securing weapons stockpiles less likely.
In failing to meet Putin at least halfway on the ABM treaty, Bush mayhave secured his ability to go his own way in the short termallowinghim to build a missile defense he says will protect the United Statesagainst ``rogue'' nations with nuclear bombs. But he did so at acostpossibly increasing the long-term risk to a United States targetedby terrorists.
As Bush and Putin admitted in their joshing before high school studentsin Texas, their disagreement on missile defense centered on the ABMtreaty. That treaty bars the deployment of nationwide defenses andrestricts anti-missile testing. Those restrictions were meant to keepboth countries vulnerable to attack, so neither would launch a firststrike.
Given his desire to build a ``shield'' against missile attacks, Bushconsiders the treaty outdated, even dangerous. Putin, on the other hand,views the agreement as a cornerstone of international stability andbelieves that steep reductions in offensive nuclear weapons are possibleonly if future defenses remain strictly limited.
At a meeting in China three weeks ago, Bush and Putin signaled that adeal reconciling these views was in the offing. U.S. officials hintedthat they could live with the ABM treaty for a time if Moscow allowedthe Pentagon to proceed with a robust missile-defense testing program.Putin, in turn, hinted that Russia could live with some testing as longas the treaty remained in effect.
Only one stumbling block remained. Putin insisted that any deal becodified in a formal agreement, while Bush wanted it to be an informalunderstanding. By Tuesday, when the presidents met at the White House,it became clear that this question of how to record their agreement wasa deal-breaker.
This setback makes it all but certain that the United States will soonunilaterally abandon the ABM treaty. The Pentagon has warned for monthsthat its ongoing testing program is bumping up against the treaty.Withdrawing from the treaty will come as no surpriseBush has signaledhis intent to do so since taking office. But that decision willnonetheless evoke an outcry in Moscow, at home and among America'sfriends.
The only real news to emerge from the three days of meetings was Bush'spledge to reduce U.S. offensive nuclear weapons to 1,700-2,200 over thenext decadedown from the 7,000 weapons currently deployed. Putinindicated that Russia, too, would reduce its strategic weapons to alevel equal to or possibly below that of the United States.
The numbers themselves were not a major breakthrough. In 1997, formerpresidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin agreed to negotiate a treatyto reduce U.S. and Russian forces to 2,000-2,500 warheads. Thatnegotiation was never concluded, because of the missile-defense issue.
Bush's unilateral commitment is a welcome effort to restart this stalledarms-control process. Still, some perspective is in order. Bush proposesto phase in the cuts over 10 years, leaving plenty of time to reversecourse if, as a senior administration official suggested, there were``changes in the world that might necessitate a change in ourthinking.'' What's more, the administration is pledging only to retirewarheads. It is not saying it will destroy them, which leaves open thepossibility that some or all will be put in storage and thus availablefor deployment if the need arises.
Nevertheless, even if the United States goes down to 1,700 operationalwarheads by 2011, it will mean thatmore than two decades after the ColdWar endedthe U.S. nuclear arsenal will still be larger than the SovietUnion's during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
Moscow wants to cut its nuclear arsenal to save money. Still, Putinspoke about weapons cuts only in broad terms. He did not say how long itwould take Moscow to dismantle its weapons or which weapons it wouldretire. And, like Bush, he said nothing about whether he would destroywarheads or just store them.
These discussions of details and numbers obscure the important realitythat we have far more weapons than we need today. As President Kennedyadviser McGeorge Bundy said more than 30 years ago: ``A decision thatwould bring even one hydrogen bomb on one city of one's own countrywould be recognized in advance as a catastrophic blunder; 10 bombs on 10cities would be disaster beyond history; and a hundred bombs on ahundred cities unthinkable.''
In other words, even if Russia became our enemy again, we would stillhave more than enough weapons to deter a nuclear attack.
Treaties and trust
There is an additional problem with the announced weapons cuts: Therelatively small reductions are not going to be enshrined in a treaty.Without that legally binding agreement, promised cuts may not be made orcould be easily reversed.
Putin is all for formalizing promises. At a press conference with Bushon Tuesday, he said Russia prefers to ``present all our agreements in atreaty form.'' He argued that a nation's security cannot be based solelyon trust.
But Bush rejects this trust-but-codify approach. Although he somewhattestily offered to write last week's commitments ``down on a piece ofpaper,'' he clearly regards arms-control negotiations and treaties asrelics of the Cold War.
For him, treaties hark back to the days when the relationship betweenthe United States and the Soviet Union was one in which the only thingthe two countries could agree on was not to annihilate each other. Hesees reciprocal unilateralism as a better approach for the beginning ofwhat he called ``a new relationship based upon trust and cooperation.''
Bush's view has some appeal. A world without formal constraints onweapons would give the United States tremendous flexibility to respondto unanticipated threatsincluding by increasing the size of itsarsenal.
But the president's approach runs two great risks. One is thatflexibility is a two-way street. By failing to codify the unilateralcuts, Russia, too, gains the ability to change its mind.
And even if the Bush administration is right that Russia has become acountry like Britain or France, in which mutual trust is indeed adefining characteristic of our relations, failing to codify theforce-reduction commitments has the potential to derail the cuts.
Ambiguity about the nature, pace and extent of the unilateralcommitments is sure to arise. That could easily draw Congress and theRussian parliament, the Duma, into the fray. Will the Duma acceptRussian reductions if the United States walks away from the ABM treaty?And if Russia drags its feet on reducing its arsenal, will Congressstill buy into the idea that unilateral cuts are a good deal? We couldfind ourselves in a new stalemate.
A greater danger
The failure to get the deal done in Crawford is bad enough. Having toomany missiles around would make the catastrophe all the greater shouldthey one day be used. Worse still, continuing friction makes it moredifficult to take joint action to tackle a more pressing threat: thevulnerability of Russian nuclear, chemical and biological weaponsmaterials to terrorist theft.
Sept. 11 leaves no doubt that terrorists like Osama bin Laden will useweapons of mass destruction if they get their hands on them. The mostready source is Russia's vast stock of weapons and materialsoftensecured in only the most primitive ways. Just this month, Russiangovernment sources acknowledged a nuclear-security violation in Russiawithin the past two years of the ``highest possible consequence.'' Whilethe details are vagueand it doesn't appear that weapons were lost thistimethe report alarmed many security experts.
The Bush administration has, all along, been slow to tackle thisthreat-even cutting funding for highly effective programs to assistMoscow in securing and dismantling this most dangerous of Sovietlegacies. Over the past decade, the United States has spent severalbillion dollars to dismantle Soviet missiles, increase security atstorage facilities and pay weapons scientists to conduct research forpeaceful purposes.
But the issue of protecting Russia's weapons stockpiles was reportedlybarely mentioned in Crawford.
By focusing their discussions on the old, Cold War agenda of armsreductions and missile defenseand failing to reach agreementBush andPutin missed a major opportunity. The real promise of Crawford was thatit might allow our two countries to move beyond the issues of yesterdayso that we could, together, meet the threats of tomorrow. return to menu
F. U.S.-Russia HEU Purchase Agreement
1. Still Waiting: USEC Needs Decision on Future
The Paducah Sun
November 25, 2001
(for personal use only)
Officials with USEC Inc. and the union that represents about 700 workersat the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant have settled their differencesover an 18-month contract, but unfortunately the tentative agreementdoes not guarantee the future of the plant and its 1,500 jobs.
The plant's future is riding on the outcome of a Bush administrationreview of the nation's nuclear fuel cycle.
USEC management and workers are in the same boat: they can only wait forthe results of the review, which involves top administration officials,including Bush's national security team.
Still, it's encouraging that USEC officials and the leaders of Local5-550 of Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy WorkersInternational were able to break the contract impasse.
Contract talks last summer bogged down on several issues. A key stickingpoint was USEC's insistence on tying the terms of the contract to afavorable decision from the Bush administration on allowing the companyto continue as the sole agent for Russian uranium recycled from nuclearwarheads.
The union agrees the short-term financial viability of the plant dependson USEC's ability to mix Russian uranium with the higher-cost materialproduced by the outmoded enrichment technology at the Paducah facility.However, union officials didn't want to link the contract to theprecarious status of the Russian deal.
Union officials and USEC negotiators reached agreement on the contractnot long after USEC dropped the Russian uranium from the contract.
If PACE workers approve the contract Monday, the plant will add to itslong record of avoiding strikes and labor disruptions.
Obviously it was important for both labor and management to get contractmatters out of the way so that both can focus on the future of the U.S.enrichment industry.
But there's little either side can do without a commitment from the Bushadministration to preserve the Paducah plant, the nation's loneremaining processor of nuclear fuel.
Bush was expected to reach a decision on the future of the plant andUSEC's Russian uranium deal in September. The terrorist attacks changedthe timetable, but the administration needs to declare its positionbefore the end of the year, when USEC's exclusive contract to processRussian uranium from old nuclear warheads and sell it as fuel fornuclear power plants expires.
The administration reportedly is leaning toward retaining USEC as theexclusive agent and not allowing utilities to enter the market inexchange for the company producing a business plan that includes keepingthe Paducah plant open for as long as 10 years.
Under this scenario, the company would open a European gas centrifugefacility within five years and develop U.S. centrifuge technology for aplant that would open in 10 years. The speculation is that the Europeancentrifuge would be located in Portsmouth, Ohio, the site of amothballed gaseous diffusion plant; and the new technology would belocated in Paducah.
As a backup plan, the federal government would operate the Paducah plantfor 10 years if USEC faltered.
This plan appears to hold the most promise for USEC workers in Paducahand the regional economy, which would be seriously damaged by the lossof the plant's 1,500 jobs.
It also makes sense as a national security measure. If the Paducah plantshuts down, the U.S. nuclear power industry will have to rely totally onforeign enriched uranium.
This is not a reassuring prospect given the current internationalturmoil and the multiple security threats posed by Islamic terrorists.
Again, we're encouraged by reports the administration apparently ismoving in the direction of salvaging the U.S. enrichment industry andallowing financially ailing USEC to shore up its bottom line.
But USEC workers and USEC stockholders, too need concrete assurancesthat the Paducah plant will continue to operate for at least anotherdecade. return to menu
G. Links of Interest
1. Global Q & A: Weapons of Mass Destruction, with Matthew Bunn